35. The Memo

“Mr. Howe is expecting you.” The secretary came from behind her desk and opened the door to the president’s office.

Bob Howe, President of Dunaway Advertising, placed the phone down as they entered. He rose from his oversized leather chair, a larger-than-life portrait of a trim blonde woman—Howe’s wife, Alan recalled—dressed in a sexy riding habit, on the wall behind him.

”Good to see you, Alan!”

They shook hands. Alan started right in with his speech.

“Bob, I’d like to talk to you about the Wholesome Soup campaign. You wanted Tom and my people working it. You said it wasn’t a big push, but we heard you and came up with a visually good-looking campaign directed at the product. The guys did some good work. They gave me everything we needed to score with Jamesville. I presented it Monday.”

“I heard it went well. Alan, have a seat. Would you like a coffee, maybe a drink?”

“No thanks.” Alan looked at the chair and sat. This might not go well.

“Bob, I’ve gotten word that Baker and Dodge are making a play for the Wholesome Soup advertising.”

“Your sources have it wrong Alan. I have a phone call with Jamesville first thing tomorrow.” Bob sounded like he’d just woken up from a nap. Maybe he needed one, the cap was off the Chivas on the bar in the corner.

“I heard something from somebody…” Alan continued. Should he mention the presentation? The feeling he had had that the company account guy would rather have been filing his nails than listening to their pitch? That would be a mistake. He would be undermining his group and Tom’s. But, what about Buffy’s intrigue?

“I appreciate your concern, Alan. I haven’t seen the boards myself, but Lou went to South Hampton last night, Alan. That tells me he’s pretty confident. The weather is supposed to be nice at the shore.”

“Look, Bob—” Go slow. Offer up valuable information. Don’t whine.

“I have some information you need. I am speaking in confidence and under oath, you might say—you know how small this town is—but the president of Baker and Dodge told a friend of mine that they had the Wholesome soup account. Baker has some arrangement. The account is theirs.”

Bob Howe fiddled with a pen on his desk; then neatened a sheaf of papers. Alan watched his boss’s face for a sign of anger, panic, disappointment, even puzzlement. Instead, Bob smiled, a look of simple pleasure, of satisfaction with life. Was he stoned? Alan was stumped.

“You have given me a lot to think about ahead of my phone call with Jamesville Foods. I appreciate your loyalty to Dunaway, Alan, but let’s not say anything more about it.”

He paused and sat back, then continued jovially, “Dunaway had a mention this morning in the Times for the Lucky Stores advertising, did you see it? You have a heck of a list of television credits, we are lucky to have you.” With that, he rose.

Alan stood up too. “No, I didn’t see it.” Who could read the paper with all that was on his mind?

“Miss Ames has it on her desk, take a look. And promise me that you will go sailing this weekend.”

Alan felt his hands open and close as if they were primed to plead for his job, plead for something! Instead, he said, “Okay. Maybe I’ll go to the country too. Make some points with my wife.”

There was nothing to do—he’d head to the train by five. Of course, he had to manage his people. But what to say to them? Kudos from the president?

“I’ll talk to the writers before I leave. They are taking material to the studio musicians next week.”

“Sounds good, Alan. ”

As he walked out of the office he couldn’t help feeling like he had missed a sign on the road or stepped onto the wrong subway platform. Something was amiss. He thanked Bob and closed the door. At the secretary’s desk, he saw today’s paper. “Mind if I look for a clipping?”

The secretary, her steel gray hair pinned up with a navy bow—presidents’ secretaries were more like executive assistants: loyal confidantes and occasional company strategists—replied, “Be my guest. Bottom of the column, page eight.”

As she handed the newspaper to Alan, he noticed an open folder beside the massive typewriter. The label on the folder said, Walter Hendricks.

Wally?

Alan unfolded the paper to the brief listing of new television campaigns. Looking over the top of the paper he saw a partially written memo in the carriage (was it called a carriage?) He read, “…offer you the position of creative supervisor…”

He realized Miss Ames was talking to him; something about the new mail boy being slow.

“Yes. Right.” Alan said, folding the paper and returned it to the desk.

“Thank you, Miss Ames. Goodbye.”

“Tell Doris, hello.”

“Will do.” Mind spinning in all directions, he headed for the elevator.

 

© Lisa Anderson 2016

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